Disclaimer: I didn't write this for money and I don't own BtVS or any linked venture.

Title: Summertime

Email: mireyamuse at gmail dot com

Rating: K/PG/any equivalent

Genre: Character Study

It's nice, sometimes, to just be able to close her eyes and put her hands behind her head and just breathe. Not do or think or say or stake. Just breathe. She breathes in slow, deep, feels the air fill up to the bottom of her lungs and then beyond, takes a breath so big she feels like she might just pop like a balloon and that'd be just fine.

That's always the first breath she takes- the slow, balloon breath. The second is smaller, and the third smaller, until she's breathing like normal. It does something, sends her awareness just a bit farther. She can smell everything, from the gasoline dripping from that leaky Oldsmobile across the street to the aroma of hot dogs on a grill from the yard three houses down.

The breathing teaches her the lay of the land. Three years in cell block D taught her cement and Lysol and scentless soap, with occasional snatches of exhaust fumes or desert blooms. SunnyD smelled like death, but only at night. Daylight brought citrus and salt and sweat. People smelled like a thousand different things- mint, almond, jasmine, pine, anything.

Here smells like salt, too, and sweat, but the pine scent comes from the land, not the people. Here has seasons like home did, and the breathing taught her those, too. Winter smelled like clean water and mint berries, and burning wood and chocolate. Apples and new paper dominated fall; spring was a thousand different flowers and the washed out scent that came from torrential rains.

Summer's different. Summer has this theme that stays the same while the rest of it—the little parts that add something extra to the season—changes, every year. The theme is always that sweet sour scent of cut grass and gasoline with a hint of compost for taste, but the rest of it… it's always new. Maybe hot dogs, burgers, fish, peppers, sometimes grilled, sometimes fried. Sometimes it's not there at all, when everyone goes away for those three dog-day weeks in the middle when the sun beats down and the lake water moves with the flavor of the Gulf.

She never used to like summer. It was always fall, when things were just getting started with slaying, when she had to fight to move silently through crunching leaves, when she'd get to wear that tank top one day and that parka the next. She used to think fall and her were the same—the wind-down, the disappointment, the scattered and confused, the slow and steady death that never seemed to end.

But man, summer just kicks the shit out of fall. There's tank tops every day and effortless absence of noise and pretty much no slaying, at all, and a lake to dive into and burgers and grass growing up to her knees. And she can sleep late or not at all, 'cause hey, school's out for the summer and even slaying school gets a vacation of sorts. All the baby slayers go somewhere, maybe Europe or LA or NYC, and it's just her and her house and how crazy is that? She has her own house, with LeHane on the mailbox right under the shiny 62. And she's lying in her own yard right now, and that's her own grass tickling her bare feet and that's her own back door squeaking.

She's got a lot of her own, now. She's got her own baby slayers and her own car, her own legitimate license too. She's got her own library that has some stuff on demons and prophecies, but more on adventure and freedom and the rhythm of words that just come pouring out of the heart. She's got a closet full of clothes that maybe can't beat B and her Rome fashions but hey, she still gets the eyes and the smiles and the drinks when she goes out and that's all that matters, right?

Best of all, she's got two wicked cool housemates who know exactly what she needs, all the time. Both of them come out sometimes and breathe with her, but not always because they know when she's just gotta be breathing on her own. Today's okay, so she doesn't get irritated any when Cagney and Selena jump on her and get their kitten claws tangled up in everything, including her hair. Takes about ten minutes to get them out of that mess, and the entire time her sometimes-cool neighbor's laughing his ass off at her.

He breathes with her sometimes, too. He's into the whole spirituality of nature thing, as long as she doesn't call it spirituality. Sometimes he talks about the soul in a piece of wood and gets stuck because he doesn't know what to call it. She filled in "soul" for him once, and that was the end of that conversation. But he's good company and a good breather and knows her needs just about as well as Cagney and Selena, and she can trust him with the key to a house full of girls.

He's another constant in the summer scent. He smells like pine and cedar and spruce and fir, like winter transplanted into the middle of a heat wave. He doesn't go away with the baby slayers, hasn't for the three years they've been here and she thinks that those first three lazy summer months, just them and the kittens, were the most amazing three months of her life.

Cagney and Selena are calmer and quieter now, and she sits up while he lies back in the grass and stares up at the sky, takes that first balloon breath and smiles. He starts humming a little, and she catches the tune and grins, and they start talking about summertime.

Note: The kittens' names are a tribute to Liz Marcs's Living History in here, because it was just so amazing. So when you're done with this and have selected the lovely "Review this story" option, go read Living History. Go on.